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Lawmakers To Meet, Demand FAA Public Hearing On Helicopter Noise
Lawmakers To Meet, Demand FAA Public Hearing On Helicopter Noise
"The purpose is simple — to demand that East End residents have the actual public hearing they were promised and which
is required by law."
By Lisa Finn, Patch Staff | Nov 26, 2018 8:34 pm ET
RIVERHEAD, NY — Elected officials and residents are joining forces to hold the Federal Aviation Administration's feet
to the proverbial fire and demand a public hearing on helicopter noise, as required by law.
East End elected officials are slated to hold a press conference on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Iron Pier Beach on Pier Ave. in
Jamesport with Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, Suffolk County Legislators
Al Krupski and Bridget Fleming, New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and others in attendance.
The goal, Jens-Smith said in a release, is for those in attendance to state their "opposition and frustration to the FAA's
reluctance to hold an open and fair public hearing on the issue of helicopter noise."
According to Teresa McCaskie of the Southold Town helicopter noise committee, civic leaders will join the elected officials
present to demand that the Federal Administration Association provide a public hearing as required by the 2018 FAA Reauthorization
bill, which was signed by President Donald Trump.
"The FAA instead came to Riverhead to offer a 'workshop' type of meeting on Nov. 13, which resulted in many residents being
angry at the forum type of 'meeting,'" she said. "The FAA cannot change the law, as signed by the president, based on Congressman
Lee Zeldin's legislation. Helicopter noise is destroying the East End."
After the meeting in Riverhead, Southold Town Councilman Bob Ghosio also expressed disappointment.
"The FAA event in Riverhead wasn't anything near what everyone thought it should be, based on the legislation," Ghosio said.
"I'd hoped they were there to acknowledge the problem and solicit comments toward the end of solving the noise issues. None
of that happened. A hearing is mandated and I find it insulting to the residents of Southold and the north fork that the FAA
tried to skirt the requirement by putting together a dog and pony show to 'educate' us about the North Shore Route. Anyone
who went there to be heard didn't need to be educated on a subject they already intimately know and have lived with the consequences
of for years now. They need to be heard. Period."
McCaskie said a similar meeting had been planned for Queens residents, but was canceled due to a snowstorm on Nov. 14.
"The FAA has yet to reschedule the 'meeting.' This is wrong!" she said. "The residents of Queens, who are inundated with helicopter
noise daily to and from the Hamptons, are also entitled to a public hearing and not a workshop. The FAA cannot change the
Russell said, of Wednesday's event: "The purpose is simple. To demand that the East End residents have the actual public hearing
they were promised and that which is required by law."
Despite a vocal outcry from elected officials and residents alike over a series of "workshops"held by the Federal Aviation
Administration on helicopter noise and assessment of the North Shore Helicopter Route, instead of public hearings lawmakers
say are required by law — so far, the FAA has not confirmed that public hearings would be held.
When asked for comment last week, the FAA said: "We are reviewing the request."
After the workshops, held in Riverhead and Garden City, Zeldin fired back and sent a letter to FAA Eastern Region Regional
Administrator Jennifer Solomon: "From the North Shore Helicopter Route's planning to its continued use, the FAA has flat out
ignored the residents directly affected, and, although the FAA is now forced to listen as enshrined in federal law, these
'workshops' have given Long Islanders a bad case of deja vu," Zeldin said.
"These 'workshops' fail to comply with the public hearing mandated in my legislative proposal which is now law, and many strongly
believe they were seemingly formatted to stifle the true negative impact of this route," Zeldin said. "The FAA was required
by law to hold a public hearing within 30 days of enactment of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which was signed into
law on Oct. 5, 2018. It is imperative that the FAA schedule this public hearing immediately, and address the concerns and
improve the quality of life of impacted Long Islanders."
To read the entire letter from Zeldin, click here.
Russell agreed: "The FAA must hold a public hearing. The 'forum' the other evening was nothing more than a dog and pony show.
The card table where you could submit comments in writing was the biggest insult. An FAA rep sitting at a folding table taking
your written statements, then putting them in a cardboard box that looked like one she probably pulled off the pile at BJ's,"
Russell said. "Yes, they should hold a public hearing. The other night was a waste of everyone's time and just created more
Bob Bittner, who also attended the workshop in Riverhead, spoke out: "A 'public hearing' is run by a public agency with the
expressed reason to gather public testimony from which reasoned decisions could be based on issues brought before it and the
community," he said. "The Reauthorization Act is the issue at hand. It was signed into law on Oct. 5 to, among other things,
look into specific aspects of the 'Mandatory North Shore Route,' a route of dubious necessity. The law requires a 'public
hearing' to gather information on altitudes of the route, alternative routes including an all South Shore route, and noise
levels impacting communities on the route," he said.
The FAA, he added, did not follow a major aspect or intent of the law but instead held informational "meetings" in "the darkness
of night in 'some' of the impacted communities to show data collected on the route in question. It was a one-sided gathering
of quickly mobilized FAA low level operatives, many brought from out of state standing around answering questions on the presented
data. Southold's senior citizen voice was stymied by holding the meeting in Riverhead in darkness, knowing full well most
seniors do not drive in darkness," Bittner said.
He added: "Southold is probably the most impacted community under the flight path. Yet no attempt was made to hold a public
hearing within the borders of this community. This action by the FAA continues to prove it is acting in an adversarial role
rather than gathering testimony from the public from which to act upon the Reauthorization Act intent, to modify, adjust,
add additional regulation, or provide an alternative route for travel via helicopter from New York City to East End airports."
Concerns were raised after the FAA announced three meetings on Long Island and in Flushing over helicopter noise, with the
aim of reconsidering the North Shore Route. Some demanded to know why the FAA had scheduled meetings, and not public hearings,
as required by law.
"My North Shore helicopter route legislation is the law of the land, and the FAA must abide by that," said Zeldin. "As the
details of the FAA's public comment process come together, I will continue to hold their feet to the fire to ensure that every
last voice is heard."
The law, Zeldin said, requires a public hearing and public comment session.
"A workshop idea can very well complement a public hearing, but there's no way it can or will be in lieu of a public hearing
to receive oral testimony," Zeldin said. "That's not an option by law, by me, and for many others. The best path forward is
an all water route over the Atlantic Ocean and it will be most important for impacted residents to submit oral and/or written
testimony throughout this upcoming public comment period to ensure that this North Shore helicopter route is reassessed and
a better path forward is pursued."
According to Zeldin, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which included the congressman's legislative proposal to require
the FAA to reassess the North Shore Route to address the noise impact on affected communities, improve altitude enforcement,
and consider alternative routes, including an all water route over the Atlantic Ocean, requires the FAA hold a public comment
period and public hearing in the community for residents to voice their concerns.
Residents can submit their comments as part of the mandated public comment period, which ends on Jan. 2, 2019, here, Zeldin
When asked previously, earlier in the month, about the questions regarding hearings, an FAA spokesperson responded: "We are
going to hold three forums to afford members of the public the opportunity to provide comments about the North Shore Helicopter
Route. That's consistent with the purpose of the directive, which is to get feedback from the impacted communities. Additionally,
subject matter experts will staff the events, so people, if they like, can engage directly with the FAA. They can ask questions,
make a statement to FAA personnel, or submit a formal comment."
Officials have said there is a need for residents to stand up and be heard at the hearings; at a recent Southold town board
work session, a helicopter noise discussion was held with McCaskie and attorney James Harmon, who also sits on town's helicopter
noise steering committee.
"We need to get the information out that we need people to attend. The FAA needs to see the level of opposition that is out
here to the North Shore route," Russell said.
Russell said although not everyone might be able to attend in person, residents should send "hundreds of emails" and "raise
Russell asked of the all water route was feasible.
Harmon said a test run was done in 2011 that indicated the all-water route was feasible but cost a little more, with helicopter
passengers paying perhaps $575 per seat instead of $540.
McCaskie said despite references to a tower that might make the Atlantic Route not viable, an assessment in East Hampton Town
has shown that the "Atlantic Route is safe," and can be used, she said.
Harmon said if that route is feasible from a flight point of view it can be used, otherwise, maybe pilots can fly around Plum
Island, he said.
McCaskie also pointed out that there has been an admission that most flights were routed through the North Fork, instead of
a 50/50 split; she added that a twin engine helicopter can go around Plum Island to East Hampton over water, rather than over
the Orient causeway, or fly over the Atlantic Ocean without any issues.
The hearings follow a victory earlier in October after President Donald Trump signed into law a proposal by Zeldin that requires
the FAA to reassess the North Shore Route and pursue an all-water route over the Atlantic Ocean.
Upon Congressional passage of the legislation, local lawmakers applauded the news.
"The ever increasing number of helicopters over Southold has devastated the quality of life for our residents. Southold has
become a doormat to the helicopter operators as they head to and from the Hamptons," Russell said. "Rep. Zeldin's amendment
is a common sense approach that will provide immediate relief to our community. I urge the FAA to follow the Congressman's
lead and help him restore the quality of life of the people of Southold."
Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman agreed. "Anything that will provide relief from helicopter noise will be welcome news
for residents of the region."
Jens-Smith said helicopter noise during the busy summer months has exponentially increased over Riverhead in the past several
"These helicopters tend to fly the same routes when navigating overland resulting in helicopters passing overhead every five
to 10 minutes," she said. "The noise created is so loud and disturbing that it can drown out your TV, or even shake pictures
off your wall if you are inside. And outside is even worse, requiring you to stop your conversations until after the helicopters
have passed. The intended routes for these flights is to avoid the land, and head out over the water to reach their destinations.
In practice this is not what happens. I applaud this bipartisan effort to finally bring relief to Riverhead residents."
Shelter Island Supervisor Gary Gerth said the issue is of the most important for the residents of Shelter Island, who have
been adversely impacted by persistent helicopter noise. "This common sense legislation is great news for Shelter Island and
our entire region and will have such a positive impact on Long Islanders day-to-day quality of life," he said.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said Congressional attention to the problem of aircraft noise over the East
End is appreciated and warranted. "We look forward to continued discussions and meaningful improvement," he said.
FAA Top Level Organization Chart headed by Administrator Daniel K. Elwell
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